The Ivy Hotel is a luxury mansion-turned hotel located in the historic Mt. Vernon neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland. Its ivy-draped walls and towering turrets are an indication of the gilded age opulence and modern amenities that await its guests.
In 1889, John Gilman, a prosperous banker and industrialist commissioned a mansion to be constructed in the prominent neighborhood of Mt. Vernon. Selecting famed architect Charles Carson for the job, Gilman requested that Carson build him a home that reflects wealth, power, and taste. Set on a leafy street with neighboring brick and stone residences ubiquitous of the era, Gilman passed away before seeing the completion of the home. For almost a century, the home was occupied by similar successful businessmen and their families. By the 1980s, Mayor William Schaefer used the home to host visiting dignitaries. Today, the mansion, a member of Relais & Chateaux, was combined with neighboring row homes to house eight light-filled suites, ten bedrooms, and a spa tower. It boasts sumptuous period details like 23 individual fireplaces, carved wood wainscoting, green marble sourced from local quarries, stained glass throughout, and stained glass skylights.
The Ivy Hotel reopened recently at limited capacity and the full-service, seemingly all-inclusive stay left nothing to be desired. Our road trip began with a three-hour drive from New Jersey in a hybrid Lincoln Aviator and upon arrival, from the moment we walked through the door, the hotel staff knew our names and greeted us with champagne. Although check-in is at 4 pm, guests are encouraged to stop by earlier and enjoy afternoon tea while waiting for their room to be prepared. We spent our first evening exploring the hotel and enjoying our suite, dressed up in 400-thread count Frette sheets, a working gas fireplace, a full bathroom including a walk-in shower, and deep soaking tub heated limestone floors. Guestrooms are pet friendly and feature a fully stocked in-room refrigerator, bath amenities by Zents, and plush robes and slippers. The hotel also encourages movie-watching and midnight-snacking, at no extra charge. No room is decorated; similarly, each has its own unique theme ranging from modern to bohemian-chic and victorian inspired.
The public courtyard and grand-octagonal living rooms offer plenty of space to enjoy a board game, drinks, or casual company with fellow guests, there’s also a billiards room and library that houses a collection of classic literature to enjoy. One of the best features of the shared spaces is the self-serve cocktail bar. Stocked with a cocktail recipe book, every liquor known-to-man, and bartending staff nearby to assist, we were able to create any drink we wanted. Once settled, we dined at the on-site restaurant, a modern Maryland bistro called Magdalena. The kitchen, lead by award-winning executive chef Mark Levy, incorporates British flair and classic french techniques with the traditional cuisine of the Chesapeake Bay region. Prior to reopening, the culinary team spent the last few months embarking on field trips to local farms and purveyors in order to locally source ingredients that are currently incorporated into their new menu. Featuring Maryland classics like Mock Turtle Soup 2020, Southern Maryland Ham, and Eastern Shore Crab Cake, the bistro also allows guests to create their own experiences with various Hors d’Oeuvres, appetizers, entrées, and desserts.
The next day, a made-to-order breakfast, basket of pastries, and a variety of fresh-squeezed juices were the jump-start we needed to explore Charm City. The Ivy is perfectly located in close proximity to Baltimore’s cultural center where guests can visit libraries, theaters, museums, and the opera. Druid Hill Park is also a 10-minute drive from the hotel, here guests can visit the Maryland Zoo. Established in 1876, it houses more than 1,500 animals and is the best place to enjoy a crisp fall day. The hotel also offers guests the option of requesting the hotel’s private car for excursions.
Our first stop was the National Aquarium, located in the heart of downtown on the Inner Harbor. The stunning floor-to-ceiling fish tanks and award-winning exhibits emulate dozens of the world’s most unique aquatic habitats and house about 20,000 creatures native to Australia, the tropical rain forests of the Amazons, an Indo-Pacific reef, and more. Some of our favorite exhibits were the Jellies Invasion, Upland Tropical Rainforest, and Australia: Wild Extremes. The Maryland National Aquarium is enormous and unlike those found in the tri-state area. We continued the day exploring the inner harbor, walking by waterfront restaurants, and passing by a number of museums including the Maryland Science Center and the Historic Ships of Baltimore’s floating museums. After exploring downtown, we decided to grab a drink nearby at Bar Vasquez. With its deco-inspired furniture, oversized palms, marble-top bar, and Argentinan cuisine, the vibe can be best described as hip and upscale-casual. Bar Vasquez’s dining area and massive vaulted ceilings emphasize the enormity and elegance of the venue. Using locally sourced ingredients, Executive chef Mario Cano Catalán creates dishes like a traditional poached or seared octopus and tender Waygu steak served with chimichurri that are not to be missed.
Our visit to The Ivy Hotel made us feel as though we were staying with an old noble friend, with its 5-star hotel level service, luxurious amenities and convenient location near the heart of Baltimore, the hotel is synonymous with repeat guests and we can see why. Though our stay was too short, we cannot wait to visit again. For those of you looking to scratch that travel itch, look no further than The Ivy.